April 10, 2006

Alberta funding program helps municipalities improve facilities, save energy

Alberta's ME first! program is providing a total of $12 million in interest-free loans to help nine municipalities achieve an estimated $1.1 million per year in energy savings in their operations.

The provincial program, launched by the government in September 2003, supports innovative projects that promote energy savings. The latest round of funding will be used for projects such as upgrades to arenas, recreation centres and other municipal facilities and retrofits to a wastewater treatment plant.

Two of the projects are municipal partnerships: the town of Legal has joined Sturgeon County to upgrade a shared ice arena and curling rink, while the town of Stony Plain and Parkland County are co-operating to build a new fire hall with considerable energy efficiencies.

Among the communities and projects receiving support are the following:

*Edmonton: A $4.8-million loan for the second phase of a facility retrofit project will improve the energy efficiency of ten municipally-owned and operated recreation facilities. Retrofits include boiler upgrades, motor upgrades, variable speed drives, heat recovery systems, control systems, lighting conversions and upgrades to building envelopes.

*Lethbridge: With $2.6 million in assistance, a fine-bubble aeration upgrade project at the city's wastewater treatment plant will convert the bioreactors from coarse-bubble to fine-bubble diffused aeration, resulting in better oxygen transfer efficiency. As part of the project, existing blowers will be replaced by energy-efficient multi-stage blowers and a variable-frequency drive control system.

*Red Deer: Its $138,000 loan will be used for a comprehensive renovation and modernization of the city's recreation to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The ME first! components of the total project include the installation of solar heating for the outdoor pool and a building ventilation heat recovery system.

*County of St. Paul: With $27,000 in support, an energy management project for the Mallaig recreation facility will include installation of a direct digital control system and an enviro-liquid cooler system in the ice arena; this will take advantage of winter temperatures to cool the brine instead of running the compressor system.

*Strathcona County: A previously-approved $3.1-million loan for phase two of the community energy system development will provide centrally-generated heating and cooling to select customer buildings in the Centre in the Park development.

ME first! loans are provided through the Alberta Capital Finance Authority (ACFA). Projects are reviewed by a committee representing the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, Climate Change Central, Alberta Environment, Alberta Municipal Affairs and the ACFA.

To date, 51 municipalities have received a total of $26.7 million in interest-free loans for initiatives that improve energy savings. The deadline for the next round of applications is June 1, 2006. More information is available on the Climate Change Central Web site, www.climatechangecentral.com/mefirst.

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